The Consumption Conundrum

Know your limits, and proper etiquette, when it comes to consuming alcohol during business functions

By: Mary Mahoney, Assistant Director, The UNIVERSITY of TENNESSEE Career Services


To drink or not to drink alcohol – that truly is the question when you’re on a job interview dinner or attending a company sponsored reception. As you interview for jobs many times, you will experience settings where alcohol is present and you are encouraged to drink. First off, never feel pressured into drinking or even ordering an alcoholic drink if you do not want one, and never order if you are under 21. You can always politely say “I’m fine” or just “No thanks.”

It can be challenging when you’re out to dinner with company representatives as part of the interview process and the server begins with you – since you are the guest – and asks what you would like to drink. Do you order an alcoholic drink or water/tea? Often you wish the host would take charge before this happens and suggest the table order a bottle of wine for those who would like some with dinner. This gives you the opportunity to graciously accept a glass or defer when the server is pouring. If this isn’t an option and you are the first, then the recommendation is to go with something safe like water or tea. If everyone else ends up ordering a glass of wine, then you say you would like a glass also, especially if you ordered water. If you order an alcoholic drink first, and no one else orders one, then you look out of place. If you are ordering a drink with a meal, wine is the recommended choice rather than mixed drinks or beer. The exception is if the event is more casual and beer is the more common choice.

If you do drink alcohol, one glass is the recommended serving. You may feel you can handle more alcohol in these settings, but you do not want to seem excessive in your drinking. You want to be in control of everything you are saying and doing. Company dinners and receptions are not the times for you to over indulge. Someone is always watching and observing your actions, especially when you are a new employee or a potential candidate.

At a reception that may last for several hours, use restraint and limit yourself to one alcoholic drink and then switch to something non-alcoholic. Most people never know what you are drinking and it isn’t any of their business.

If you will be working for a company that routinely entertains and you are not familiar with wine and food pairings, it’s suggested that you take a wine tasting course. This will enable you to become more familiar with the various types of wine and how they pair up with food choices.

A glass of wine is often a nice compliment to a good dinner, but drinking excessively is never a good decision. Use discretion at company dinners, receptions and other events and you will be fine.

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